The 2018/19 season for Paris Saint-Germain FC should probably be described as a mixed bag, despite the incredible talent assembled on the star-studded PSG roster.
The Parisians ran away with the Ligue 1 title for the second year in a row and the sixth in seven years, outclassing second place Lille by 16 points. But winning Ligue 1 is the expectation, and PSG are judged primarily by their performance in both Europe and the domestic treble.
Unfortunately, PSG bowed out again in the early knockout rounds of the Champion’s League, shockingly losing to Manchester United due to a late goal in the second leg of their fixture. Plus, they failed to win either domestic cup, adding insult to their Champions League injury.
Now, heading into the 2019/20 season, PSG will look to maintain their Ligue 1 dominance while making a deep Champion’s League run and winning a domestic treble as they did in 2018. Here are the most crucial players in their squad heading into the 2019 summer transfer period.
Kylian Mbappe – Forward
Fresh off World Cup glory, Mbappe broke out in a huge way over this past season. 39 goals in 43 appearances for PSG, establishing himself as one of the best players in the world.
Gifted with phenomenal pace and incredible technical ability, Mbappe is capable of either dribbling through defenders or blowing past them with sheer pace. He’s also a two-footed player with tremendous vision and clinical finishing ability. In short, Mbappe possesses few weaknesses.
For a player of Mbappe’s caliber, there will always be rumblings of interest from top clubs around the world; chiefly Real Madrid. But look for PSG to retain the services of their talismanic attacker for at least another year as he attempts to take the next step and win the Ballon D’Or.
Edinson Cavani – Center Forward
At 32 years of age, time is starting to creep up on prolific striker Edinson Cavani. Yet the Uruguayan remains a potent scoring force. Cavani is known for his combination of physicality, technical prowess and high work rate, and is capable of scoring goals from nearly any situation.
He managed to once again score 20+ goals across all competitions in the past season, but after averaging 45 goals a season over the previous two years, his total of 24 may indicate that Cavani is beginning to lose his edge.
Cavani is signed through 2020, meaning his future with the club is uncertain and some transfer news may be on the horizon. Expect Cavani to try to put up one more massive offensive season to show that he’s still got some gas left in the tank.
Neymar Jr. – Winger
Neymar came to PSG in search of glory out of the shadow of Messi. And while he’s found domestic success in the two years since leaving Barcelona, everything hasn’t been perfect. Last year was a big part of that.
Neymar endured an injury-marred season in which he scored 23 goals, but only played in 28 games across all competitions. To make matters worse, he was forced to watch from the sidelines, injured, as Manchester United knocked PSG out of the Champion’s League.
The Brazilian is one of the most skilled dribblers we’ve ever seen, able to confuse defenders with an array of tricks and moves. Neymar can score in the air or with either of his feet, although his finishing can waver a bit at times.
When healthy and happy, Neymar is one of the best five soccer players in the world. The trick is making sure he’s fit and content, and it’s unclear that PSG is the right place for him. Rumors of a move back to Barcelona have been floating, although there’s nothing concrete at this time.
Regardless of where he plays next year, Neymar should score goals in bunches and chase a Champion’s League title.
Angel Di Maria – Winger
For the past four seasons, Angel Di Maria has been a steady presence for PSG, producing excellent attacking play while being deployed in multiple positions. At the age of 31, Di Maria shows little sign of slowing down, scoring 19 goals across all competitions and assisting on numerous goals.
Di Maria is at his deadliest out wide, where he can use his pace and dribbling ability to attack defenders and send crosses into the box. But he’s also capable of playing more centrally and scoring goals of his own, making him a versatile player. While he’s improved defensively over the years, defense has never been Di Maria’s strong suit.
At some point, PSG will need to start thinking about life after Di Maria. Wingers usually begin to drop off as they make their way deeper into their 30s. But for now, Di Maria will look to continue to produce his usual stellar seasons for club and country.
Julian Draxler – Attacking Midfielder
PSG are known primarily for their superstar attacking options like Neymar and Mbappe, but Julian Draxler is a strong attacking talent in his own right. At the age of 25, Draxler should be coming into his full powers as he turned in another solid season for PSG.
Draxler is capable of playing either out wide or in a more central attacking position, and is known for his impressive technical ability and a strong and accurate shot. If there’s a knock on Draxler, it’s that he’s a bit of a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’, with skills to play a variety of positions but no one home position where he utterly dominates.
Signed through 2021 and at an age where you’d expect no drop off in his play, Draxler looks to be an integral part of PSG next year.
Marco Verratti – Central Midfielder
While the likes of Neymar, Cavani, Mbappe and Di Maria are scoring all the goals, Marco Verratti is pulling the strings and running the midfield to ensure constant distribution. While his goal numbers don’t jump off the stat sheet, the Italian midfielder is a crucial piece of PSG’s strategy.
Verratti is known primarily for his masterful control in tight spaces and his vision and passing ability. He’s also defensively strong, meaning he can be deployed in more of a forward playmaking role or a deeper lying holding midfield position.
At the age of 26 and signed for two more years, Verratti doesn’t look to be going anywhere, and can expect to feature heavily in PSG’s squad in the middle of the pitch.
Thomas Meunier– Fullback
PSG has benefited from strong fullback play over recent years, and Thomas Meunier has been a big part of their quality at the position. Three years into his PSG career, Meunier has been making important contributions at key times, and in the past season he chipped in 5 goals in all competitions last year in addition to his defensive duties.
AS Dani Alves gets older, Meunier seems the natural fit for the right back position, and while he’s not quite as prolific an attacker as Alves in his prime, Meunier is capable of getting forward to support the attack while maintaining his defensive responsibilities.
Meunier will likely be watching closely as PSG and Alves wrangle over the Brazilian’s new contract. Meunier has only one year left on his own deal, and had previously been linked with Man United and a few other clubs. If PSG is able to commit playing time to him, Meunier seems likely to stay. But if he’s not a consistent first choice, another squad may be able to snatch him up.
Dani Alves - Fullback
It’s amazing that Dani Alves is still contributing at a high level at the age of 36, when many star players have long since gone to the United States, China or other easier leagues. Or simply retired. The tireless Brazilian shared the right back role last season with Thomas Meunier, but Alves tended to get the selection in the most important matches, showing PSG’s regard for him.
Alves, at the end of his career, will be regarded as one of the finest fullbacks to play the game, especially in the attacking aspect. As an attacking fullback, Alves has everything you could want – pace, dribbling ability, keen passing and tremendous crossing. At times, he’s perhaps a little bit of a liability defensively, but you can live with that for what he creates at the offensive end of the pitch.
Currently, Alves is out of contract as of this summer, and he and PSG are working on signing a new deal. It appears that both sides want to make it work, but as of yet no agreement has been reached. It’s a situation worth monitoring, as Alves might have played his last game for PSG.
Marquinhos – Center Back
A defensive jack of all trades for PSG, Marquinhos served as a center back, fullback and defensive midfielder at times last year. His positional versatility and quality proved very useful for PSG, and Marquinhos produced a solid season.
Marquinhos is known for his intelligence, positioning and anticipation as a defender, as well as his confidence on the ball. Perhaps his only deficiency is that he lacks prototypical size for a center back, though he’s able to get by based on his abundance of other qualities.
Marquinhos looks to be part of PSG’s long-term plans, especially as Thiago Silva gets older. Already signed long-term and just coming into his prime, expect Marquinhos to be somewhere within PSG’s back line or defensive midfield next season.
Thiago Silva – Center Back
At 34 years old, Thiago Silva isn’t quite the player he was in his prime, when he was one of the premier center backs in the game. While time has stolen a bit of his athleticism, Silva remains a top-tier player, and he put in another excellent season for PSG, appearing in 39 games across all competitions.
Silva in his prime was one of the most complete center backs ever to play, combining pace, aerial ability, anticipation and the ability to play the ball out the back. That same package is slightly diminished by age, but Silva remains a do-it-all center back.
Silva’s contract runs through another year, and given his advanced age it’s reasonable to think that this might be his last year with PSG. Legendary center back Vincent Kompany recently ended his stellar run with Manchester City at a similar age as Silva’s. It’s possible that the Brazilian might do the same at the conclusion of this upcoming season.
Presnel Kimpembe – Center Back
With Thiago Silva nearing the end of his career, a potential successor waits in the wings in the person of Presnel Kimpembe, a young French center back with loads of potential. Kimpembe, a PSG academy product since the age of 8, has been a squad rotation player for the past few seasons, but could be poised to take a big step this upcoming season.
Kimpembe isn’t the most physically imposing center back, standing at only 6 feet tall. However, he has the strength and leaping ability to hold up to the physical demands of the position. He excels in playing the ball out of the back with confidence and precision, a must for a center back in the systems run by the top clubs in Europe.
Kimpembe has been seen as a long-term piece for PSG for several years now, and his time to shine may be coming soon.
Alphonse Areola – Goalkeeper
Last season, Italian legend Gianluigi Buffon signed with PSG for one last run at Champion’s League glory and played in a number of big matches for the team. With his departure, it’s safe to say that the goalkeeping job is solidly Alphonse Areola’s this next season.
At 26, Areola should be entering his prime as a keeper, and the towering Frenchman is an imposing figure between the sticks, with strong shot stopping ability. His distribution can be excellent at times, though it has some room to go before reaching the mastery of a Neuer, Ederson or Alisson.
There doesn’t look to be much serious competition for first choice keeper for PSG, so look for Areola to be a central figure in PSG’s next campaign.
PSG's Roster: The Big Picture
The PSG roster boasts a number of other quality players and up-and-coming prospects. It’s also possible that the summer transfer window will shake things up dramatically.
If Neymar were to bolt for Barcelona, or Real Madrid were somehow to pry Mbappe away, there’s no doubt that PSG would feel compelled to make a countermove to replace some of that missing offense. Like any transfer window, there’s always a possibility for a shock.
Even absent a massive move, it’s likely that there will be some squad turnover, and some new names may enter the picture on the PSG roster. But PSG’s success or failure - including improvement in Champions League - will likely come down to the performances of the men above.
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